Banksy, the Picasso of pranksters

I had only vaguely heard of guerilla artist Banksy before, but anyone who puts 500 home-made, insulting versions of Paris Hilton’s album into stores in the UK is clearly some kind of a genius. I tracked down the images (note: the cover is somewhat M-rated – but art, so it’s OK right?), and they’re great. I’ve reproduced a few here – I’m sure an intellectual property renegade like Banksy won’t mind. The dog’s head in the final image might be a touch unfair, though. Dogs are quite intelligent.

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Poor Paris – well, not poor in the wealth sense, but you know what I mean. Hardly anyone’s buying her CD, and hundreds of those few who have are discovering they’ve instead bought something with far more artistic value.

And that it’s flopped after all the headlines she customarily generates is particularly embarrassing. The publicity blitz was so great that Virgin Blue even played it as we landed the last time I caught one of their flights – as if the landing process wasn’t nerve-racking enough without ‘Stars Are Blind’ as your soundtrack.

A quick look at Banksy’s work shows that he’s got an excellent c.v. of this kind of stuff. Among my favourites (mainly from the Wikipedia article):

  • At London Zoo, he climbed into the penguin enclosure and painted ‘We’re bored of fish’ in two metre high letters.
  • In August, 2005, Banksy painted 9 images on the Palestinian side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall
  • In May 2005 Banksy’s version of primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife whilst pushing a shopping trolley was found hanging in the British Museum.
  • He smuggled a dead rat in a glass case into the Natural History Museum in London
  • In June 2006, Banksy stencilled an image of a naked man hanging out of a bedroom window on a wall in central Bristol, England. The image sparked some controversy, with the Bristol City Council leaving it up to the public to decide whether it should stay or go. After an internet discussion in which 97% (all but 6 people) supported the stencil, the city council decided it would be left on the building.

You can buy a cheap Banksy of your own here, although they’re currently sold out.

So much better than our closest equivalent, the serial pest Peter Hore. For one thing, Banksy never cost England qualification to the World Cup. I hadn’t realised Hore was still being annoying – the media has probably decided not to give him any more attention:

  • 11 August 2006 – Ran onto EnergyAustralia Stadium towards the end of a game between the Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles holding a guitar.
  • 15 August 2006 – Burst into a Newcastle City Council meeting during a youth protest asking if someone “wanted [him] to make alot of noise…”. He announced himself as the “future President of Australia”

I think it’s been pretty comprehensively established that no-one wants Hore to make a noise, or in fact do anything at all.

Whereas Banksy’s hugely popular – he has released numerous books (from which I learn that his first name is Robin, of course) designed the Blur album cover for Think Tank and has been acclaimed by art historians for placing unauthorised artworks in galleries. He’s got a well-designed website and has been interviewed by Wired and The Guardian.

There’s always been a debate over whether graffiti was art or vandalism. I’d only hope that more young graffitists would turn their attention to producing artworks that were so consistently amusing – and so effective as harsh social commentary. Particularly about Paris Hilton.

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